The Booze Blog Portal - Alcohol, Bars, Malaysia and Beyond.

02 July 2015

Insta Weekly: 44 Bar The Row - DIY Cocktails: GnT, Manhattan & Jungle Bird - Janice of O+A - Labuan & Kota Kinabalu.

Oops. Last week's insta weekly report's late because I spent the last weekend travelling across Labuan and Kota Kinabalu, which I'll tell you about once you get past my other equally-exciting boozy adventures of the week, hehe.

1. 44 Bar's Found a New Temporary Home @ The Row, Kuala Lumpur

Left: Juicy fruity Tango Mango. Middle: Kick-ass Bottle Aged Cocktails. Right: Potential crowd favourite: Donkey Kick

The 44 Bar that we know and love (previously ex-APW) has popped up at The Row along Jalan Doraisamy. The Row may sound unfamiliar to you - but how about its former name - Asian Heritage Row? That's right, The Row IS a souped up ex-Asian Heritage Row filled with new third wave cafes, quaint eateries and other instagram-genic shops that hipsters would love.

This time, 44 may be slightly harder to find (that's the fun part I suppose, albeit a little scary for the ladies especially at night), but just follow the familiar signage and you can't miss it. Take heed - the look and feel of the current place is very different from the previous location. It feels...  permanent with so much more cement, but take my word for it that it won't be.

It'll offer the usual American craft spirits by Liberty Spirits Asia UNavailable anywhere else in Malaysia, but with a different cocktail menu (at a slightly higher price starting from RM40 and above). If you've been to their APW location, you may have noticed and played around at their Gintoxicated corner where you could customise your own GnT by mixing & matching available botanicals and spices. However, in this current location, Gintoxicated is no more, replaced by Bottle Aged Cocktails.

What these are, are basically classic cocktails made in batches, and then "aged" in a bottle for a couple of weeks for an added oomph to its character. Because they need to be made with ingredients that'll last through the aging process, expect only strong, heavy-spirited cocktails in these. None of that sweet, fruity, fluffy, creamy stuff. There are 8 cocktails to choose from and each one may help you grow that curly moustache you've always wanted overnight (I exaggerate).


2. DIY Cocktails of the Week - Gin & Tonic, Bourbon Manhattan, Spiced Rum Jungle Bird

Left: Grapefruit GnT. Middle: Bourbon Manhattan. Right: Jungle Bird - A Malaysian cocktail.

Realised I haven't played around with mixing cocktails at home - so it was time to catch up on that.

I pimped up a Gordon's Gin & Tonic with fresh grapefruit slices, in place of lime. First learnt how grapefruit went so well with GnT at Inch in Penang.  Next time you run out of limes, try this one instead - slice up half a grapefruit, squeeze some of its juices out into the gin and tonic before dumping them into your drink,  then quench your thirst,  smile and eat your grapefruit along the way. It's a "healthy" cocktail with loads of Vitamin C!

Making the Manhattan (used Woodford Reserve in this one) is really a test of a true bartender. In fact, any cocktail that requires you to stir strong spirits with ice is really a test (like the martini, sazarec) and I really really suck at those. I especially suck at anything that contains vermouth. I suspect it's because I don't have the right ice, and my vermouth is never in tip top condition. Vermouth is one heck of a fragile and a painful bottle to keep. Once opened, like wine, you cannot keep it for too long. It actually oxidizes and spoils, just like wine would, tasting a little like vinegar. I'm sure I've ranted about my vermouth problem before. Sigh. If you have any tips on how to master making such cocktails or especially where to get hold of tiny measures of vermouth please let me know. So far, I can only find 1 litre bottles which, while not expensive, is a huge waste because how many vermouth drinks can you make in a couple of weeks before you puke?

You know how in almost every bloody bar you visit in Singapore, there's the Singapore Sling? Well, my wish is for every cocktail bar in Malaysia worth its salt to feature the Jungle Bird (I used Sailor Jerry in place of dark rum for my homemade rendition) in its menu, because  it's a MALAYSIAN cocktail darn it! There's really no excuse to not have this in any local bar because it's so easy to make with very easily attainable ingredients: campari, pineapple juice, dark rum, lime juice and sugar syrup. I mean if I can whip it up, anyone can! On top of that, it could also be a yummier drink than the Singapore Sling (sorry, I haven't tasted one that I liked)! Try it!

3. Visited Janice @ Omakase + Appreciate 

Call me bias for going back there so often but I can't help it if this bar is actually a stone's throw away from my office!

Well, I'm sure everyone's read everywhere about how awesome Karl and Shawn are.  So here's a different story. Say hello to Janice Lau, who,  I'm willing to bet my money on, will be a rising star of the local bartending scene. There are not enough female bartenders  in Malaysia yet so I'm totally rooting for her, among a few others which I will get to soon enough. But don't take my word for it - go try her drinks yourself. Her cocktail menu (classics and her own creation) will be featured every Tuesday and Wednesday, which changes every month. You can also ask her to omakase (leave it to you) cocktails for you if you let her know what your preferences are.

Check out her menu in advance on their facebook page:

4. My Labuan - Kota Kinabalu Adventure

Left to right, top to bottom: Free-flow beer at Plaza Premium Lounge. Drinking at Sapi Island. Thank goodness for Kalamatas bar. That Boddington's was only RM4.50 and even more drinking in some random Labuan chinese kopitiam. 

Spent the night at Plaza Premium Lounge KLIA 2 again prior to our early morning flight to Labuan. Still loving how convenient and comfortable it is and especially the novelty of cold beer being served in cold glasses in the lounge. Almost like a home away from home, except you don't really need to clean up after yourself. :P I would stay here again in a heart beat.

On Labuan:
This would be my first trip to Labuan (Own note: Yeay! June's activity checked!) - known for being a duty free haven. Being there, I felt like a fat kid in an all-you-can-eat buffet. There were so many uncommon stuff sitting in cabinet corners collecting dust and at very affordable prices too. I couldn't find mind blowing reviews of restaurants or places of interest in other parts of the island so we literally spent all day in the city centre just walking into every liquour shop we came across. I will come back for your duty free shopping and drinking again Labuan, you have my word.

On KK, Sabah:
People always tell me to go for the cheap beers and seafood in Kota Kinabalu - but so far, I haven't found it to be true. Drinking is really not that cheap (Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia have much cheaper local beer) and seafood while fresh, isn't that cheap either (not too hard to find a place where you just need to pay a bit more for ginormous prawns and crabs in the Klang Valley). But people have vouch that Sabah, in general, feels safer, her people are friendly and warmer. This, I can't deny yet. The islands (visited Sapi and Manukan) with its clear blue water were quite a treat too. You CAN get beers at the islands, but at a hefty RM15 per can. So try and source your beers from the local chinese kopitiams (you still can get it around RM10-13 from 3 cans - not too expensive) before going to the island.

A quick shout out to 2 bars I visited in KK and liked:

1) Kalamatas Resto'ba - I'm pretty sure this is a neighbourhood bar (think Cheers, but localised). Serves a full food menu (local, Western, Filipino), draught (GAB) & bottled beers with happy hour prices (1 pint of Guinness was RM19.90 and bonus - they DO know how to execute the 2-part pour properly!), bottled spirits and cocktails. Check out reviews:

2) Loft - I don't really like hanging out at the Waterfront bars (think of it as Sabah's version of KL's Changkat Bukit Bintang) generally because it's expensive and very touristy. But Loft isn't too bad and seems like another place the locals like to hang. It's casual, unpretentious, not sleazy or dingy AND we had a bucket of 4 Heinekens for RM43. Find it:

Until next week, drink safe!

Insta Weekly is a weekly summary of boozy updates from my with the hashtag #angeltini. Feel free to follow me if you enjoy daily updates on booze, food and other random stuff by a girl from Malaysia. Cheers!